Life After Theatre Fairfield a Smash Hit
Christopher Taggart ’05 is a theatre administrator currently overseeing Disney’s wildly successful Broadway adaptation of Aladdin.
Jennifer Katona ’99 founded the graduate program in educational theatre at The City College of New York.
Paul Marcarelli ’92 is the “Verizon guy,” whose “Can you hear me now?” has become a national catch phrase.
What do they have in common? They’re all part of the Theatre Fairfield family, a group of students and alumni who’ve found a second home in the cozy confines of the PepsiCo Theatre the last few decades. And the trio – along with actress January LaVoy ’97 and Colleen Kennedy ’09, staffing manager at Summer Institute for the Gifted – came back to campus for “Life After Theatre Fairfield,” a biennial gathering in which alumni of the resident theatre company “tell all” about their lives after Commencement. This year’s event was held on January 28 and attracted about 40 current students eager to see how theatre training translates to real life.
“The Theatre Fairfield family is just that – grads always help each other out and tend to ‘know’ each other across generations,” said Dr. Martha LoMonaco, professor of theatre and producer and resident director of Theatre Fairfield. “They tend to be caring, generous, loving individuals who do what they can to help our current students.”
Advice was plentiful during the evening. LaVoy, who originated the role of Noelle Ortiz-Stubbs on daytime’s One Life to Live and is known for her stirring work in August Wilson plays, spoke about the years she spent paying the rent while going on as many as 500 auditions a year.
“I waited tables. I cleaned apartments. I temped,” said the actress. Her perserverance paid off: LaVoy has appeared on Broadway, was in the Tom Cruise film War of the Worlds and has been directed on stage by The Cosby Show's Phylicia Rashad. And a steady stream of jobs in voiceover and commercials -- not to mention more than 80 audio books she's recorded -- mean she's able to pursue her passion -- live theatre. "There's nothing in the room right now and then we make life in the room," she said of the experience. "I love it!"
Marcarelli, who is one of the longest-running and most recognizable spokespeople in television history, encouraged aspiring actors to bring their all to every part. He has parlayed his 10-plus years with Verizon into a career as a filmmaker. In fact, he had just flown in from the Sundance Film Festival, where The Royal Road, a film he executive produced, was screened last month.
“If you want work, you have to make it happen for yourself,” he said, telling the audience to work hard and always be honest. “Being the person someone would trust with their cat when they’re on vacation. That kind of trust.”
Though she didn’t pursue a theatre career, Kennedy said she uses the skills honed through Theatre Fairfield at work everyday. “You are working with high stress. You project, communicate, multitask. You have an upper hand.”
Taggart, who joined the Aladdin team in 2013, encouraged those with a passion for theatre to branch out in their studies. “Take courses in areas that scare you,” he said, adding accounting and business courses are invaluable. “Think about how you can tie those things into theatre.”
Katona, who oversees the only educational theatre program at a public university, agreed.
“You are getting an amazing liberal arts education,” she said, adding she’s found a way to have a highly rewarding theatre career out of the spotlight. “If you don’t go to New York City, you’re not a failure. Be confident in your choices.”
After the event, the panelists and audience members posed for a photo. The panelists are (second row, seated from left to right): Colleen Kennedy, Jennifer Katona, January LaVoy, Paul Marcarelli and Christopher Taggart.